Smit gives Plum the boot

2013-06-12 00:00

JOHN Smit, who has yet to officially assume office as CEO, yesterday made an instant impact when he dumped current Sharks coach John Plumtree at his very first press conference.

Smit said he had taken the difficult decision and it was part of a “process to create something fresh and new for the Sharks players and supporters”.

Smit, who has been appointed Sharks CEO from July 1, will spend six months with current incumbent Brian van Zyl before taking over at the end of the year.

But he has not been slow to flex his muscles and yesterday ended the weekend speculation surrounding Nick Mallett by suddenly calling a media conference and then ending Plumtree’s five-year career as Sharks coach.

The sudden development was forced on the Sharks by Mallett’s weekend claim that he had turned down an offer to replace Plumtree.

The downfall of the respected Sharks coach has been sudden. In November, Plumtree was voted South Africa’s top coach after the Sharks had won through to three finals in a year.

But the Sharks, with a devastating run of injuries and patchy form, have struggled through the current Super Rugby campaign and Plumtree has now paid the price.

Smit, who played as captain under Plumtree before leaving South Africa and spending the last two years of his playing career with Saracens in London, admitted it had been a difficult decision.

“I have someone in mind to replace Plum. I’ve also spoken to [former Springbok centre and Saracens coach] Brendan Venter who will take over as director of rugby.”

Smit paid tribute to Plumtree.

“We can only be thankful for what Plum has done for the Sharks over the years, but this was purely a decision to freshen up and create some change for the players’ experiences as well.”

He said that Brendan Venter would make a valuable contribution to Sharks rugby.

“I’ve seen first-hand what he can and does do. He’s created something quite special at Saracens in terms of rugby environment and the environment off the field as well. It’s something that appealed to me and the reason why I looked to contract him.”

While Plumtree has been rushed from the stage, Smit said he would look and learn before making changes.

“I’ve been away for two years so it’s best to sit back and learn as much as possible before jumping in.”

He said that taking over from veteran CEO Brian van Zyl was also daunting.

“The Sharks are what they are because of having someone like him in the CEO role.”

Looking ahead, Smit said that the Sharks’ position in South African rugby would be thoroughly assessed before a strategy was put in place.

“Success is the combination of victory on the field and the union’s revenues. It’s very difficult to have a successful product without a team that wins more than it loses. All I can promise is that come July 1, I will do my level best to make sure this is the best place in the world to come watch a game.”

The 36-year-old said that he had played alongside more than half the current Sharks side and that would be an advantage. “It will be difficult when there are difficult decisions to make. Having a relationship with people will hopefully make that process easier. If I am honest all the time, then hopefully things will always end up being understood by all parties concerned.” Smit said he was confident the Sharks had the players to excel.

“We have a powerful squad, some really talented players and we’re fortunate there. Rudolf Straeuli [commercial manager] and Brian van Zyl have been working hard on getting players to sign, which they have done. We don’t want to lose anybody.”

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